Amaranth is a tall, bushy plant whose seeds are edible. Similar to quinoa, amaranth belongs to the family of beets, chard, spinach and other weeds. It is not technically a grain but its nutritive value is similar to grains and is therefore enjoyed like grains. It has a porridge like texture and can be cooked with other types of grains. It can be popped like corn, made into pasta, cooked as rice or simply powdered as flour. Amaranth, as a crop, requires less water to cultivate, making it a useful alternative in regions of low rainfall/water supply. Being a weed, it also grows rapidly. Interestingly, the flower bud of amaranth does not wither and remains vibrant even after dying.
The leaves, root and stem of the amaranth plant are used for consumption. The root of the amaranth is alkaline and has a milky taste. The leaves can be cooked and prepared in a variety of ways. It is known as Chaulai in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where the leaves of the plants are utilized for preparing curries and gravies. The leaves can also be stir fried with spices and consumed as a Cheera. These greens are steamed and seasoned in Tamil Nadu. The leaves can also be used in a dal or a lentil gravy or it can be fried in chillies and onions. The stem and leaves can also be used to create delicious soups and salads. Amaranth acts a thickener for sauces, soups and stews. The nutty, crunchy flavour of amaranth makes for an amazing snack.
1. The nutritional value of amaranth is similar to grains as well as green leafy vegetables. Amaranth is a rich source of protein containing two essential amino acids, Iysine and methionine. The protein content in the seeds of Amaranth is more than that present in rice, sorghum, and rye.
2. In addition to that, amaranth is loaded with iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium. It’s fiber content is also triple than that of wheat. This gluten-free characteristic makes it an easily digestible grain.
3. Studies have also revealed that amaranth contains Omega-3, thereby regulating blood pressure.
4. The plant also has phytochemical compounds that helps lower hypertension and the risk of cancer.